Edgar Allan Poe

A picture of the author Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe, born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1809, lived a life filled with tragedy. Poe was an American writer, considered part of the Romantic Movement, in the sub-genre of Dark Romanticism. He became an accomplished poet, short story writer, editor, and literary critic, and gained worldwide fame for his dark, macabre tales of horror, practically inventing the genre of Gothic Literature. Visit our study guides for The Pit and the Pendulum and The Raven.

Although his writings were well received, Poe struggled financially and was also plagued with "bouts of depression and madness." Edgar Allan Poe was orphaned at a young age after his mother died and his father abandoned the family. He was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia, but Poe was never formally adopted by them. Enjoy this fascinating background on The Many Names of Poe. He went to the University of Virginia for a term before running out of money, then enlisted in the Army, where he failed as an officer's cadet at West Point.

Poe was one of the earliest American writers to focus on the short story and is credited with inventing the detective fiction genre. But it is for his horror stories that he is world famous today, great short stories that are widely known, including; The Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Purloined Letter are among his most popular short stories. [also see the great short stories below this text that feature illustrations]

Less well known was his role as a prolific literary critic. In response to one of his reviews, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: “I care for nothing but the truth; and shall always much more readily accept a harsh truth, in regard to my writings, than a sugared falsehood. I confess, however, that I admire you rather as a writer of tales than as a critic upon them.”

Poe published his first work, an anonymous collection of poems, Tamerlane and Other Poems in 1827. Poe changed his focus to prose, and after many years of writing for periodicals and journals he became known for his own style of literary criticism. All the while Poe moved around between Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City.

Edgar Allan Poe’s epic poem The Raven, was published when he was in Baltimore in 1845, and became an instant success. Poe planned to produce his own journal, The Stylus, but he died in 1849 of unknown causes at the young age of 40, before he could make that project a reality.

Poe had many imitators, and after his death clairvoyants often claimed to "receive" Poe's spirit and "channel" his poems and stories in attempts to cash-in on his fame and talent. The attempt to cash in on his fame was rather ironic considering that Poe died penniless. His work also influenced science fiction, namely Jules Verne, who wrote a sequel to Poe's novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket called An Antarctic Mystery.

Considered the quintessential American Gothic writer, Poe's epic story, The Fall of the House of Usher (1839) reveals the tragedy of Rodrick Usher, who suffers from a variety of mental health disorders not even invented or named by modern psychology when Poe wrote about them: hyperethesia (sensory overload), hypochondria, and acute anxiety. It’s a stellar tale sure to disturb and delight the reader.

All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

Students and teachers may benefit from our Gothic Literature Study Guide and D.H. Lawrence's chapter about Poe in his book, Studies in Classic American Literature.

Enjoy many of Poe's stories in our collections, Gothic, Ghost, Horror & Weird Library, Halloween Stories, and Mystery Stories.

Enjoy some illustrated Short Stories from Edgar Allan Poe; click to read.

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Short Stories

A Descent Into the Maelstrom
A Predicament
A Tale of Jerusalem
A Tale of the Ragged Mountains
A Voyage to the Moon
Four Beasts in One
How to Write a Blackwood Article
King Pest
Landor's Cottage
Loss of Breath
Mellonta Tauta
Mesmeric Revelation
MS. Found in a Bottle
Never Bet the Devil Your Head
Old English Poetry
Philosophy of Furniture
Silence -- a Fable
Some Words with a Mummy
The Angel of the Odd
The Assignation
The Balloon Hoax
The Black Cat
The Business Man
The Cask of Amontillado
The Devil in the Belfry
The Domain of Arnheim
The Duc de L'Omelette
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
The Fall of the House of Usher
The Gold-Bug
The Imp of the Perverse
The Island of the Fay
The Landscape Garden
The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.
The Man of the Crowd
The Man That Was Used Up
The Masque of the Red Death
The Murders in the Rue Morgue
The Mystery of Marie Roget
The Oblong Box
The Oval Portrait
The Pit and the Pendulum
The Power of Words
The Premature Burial
The Purloined Letter
The Spectacles
The Sphinx
The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether
The Tell-Tale Heart
The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherezade
The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall
Thou Art the Man
Three Sundays in a Week
Von Kempelen and his Discovery
Why the Little Frenchman Wears his Hand in a Sling
William Wilson
X-ing a Paragrab



Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson